Honolulu is so much more than just the sunny resort area of Waikiki, where white sands stretch all the way to iconic Diamond Head. The capital city is Hawaii’s commercial and urban heart, with first-class museums, shopping, dining, clubs, and bars. And every year millions of visitors from around the globe find aloha in Honolulu, where surfboards, sunsets, swimming, and taking it slow are simply a way of life.
Aside from Honolulu’s iconic Waikiki Beach, walking, driving, and even Segway city sightseeing tours feature downtown Honolulu attractions like Iolani Palace, bustling Chinatown (one of the country’s oldest), early mission houses, churches, and the Bishop Museum, which is filled with historical and cultural artifacts. Many visitors venture above and beyond the city limits on helicopter tours to take in the island’s unique and verdant volcanic topography, on land-based Oahu tours that circle the island, and on water and boat tours that cruise the Pacific. Honolulu is the perfect jumping-off point for other Oahu sights including Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor (home to the USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials, as well as the Pacific Aviation Museum), the Dole Plantation, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the North Shore surf town of Haleiwa, laid-back Kailua, Sea Life Park, Pali Lookout, and the protected snorkeling reefs at Hanauma Bay.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Every Friday night, hotels in Waikiki set off a not-to-miss fireworks spectacular.
- Both Diamond Head and Koko Head Crater offer challenging but easy-to-reach hikes with stunning city, island, and sea views.
- The Waikiki trolley is a convenient way to get around the area.
How to Get There
Regular daily flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport from destinations across Hawaii, the mainland US, and the globe. From points on Oahu, a rental car and the public TheBus are your best bets for getting to Honolulu.
When to Get There
Honolulu enjoys year-round balmy weather, so many visitors make the trip in winter (November through March). Hawaii’s peak tourism times tend to coincide with breaks in the US academic calendar—summer, spring break, and the Christmas/New Year holidays. To get the best rates, dodge the crowds, and still enjoy some warm sun in the winter, plan a vacation for February, a particularly affordable time to travel to Honolulu.
Popular Honolulu Events
The Honolulu Festival, celebrating the unique cultural blend of the city and neighboring countries in the Pacific Rim, is held over three days each March with parades, musical entertainment, and craft fairs. A unique and Buddhist twist on Memorial Day (observed on the last Monday of May) is also a sight to see—thousands of paper lanterns are set afloat at Ala Moana Beach Park. Kamehameha Day (June 11) sees copious amounts of floral lei draped on statues throughout the city, but perhaps the city’s most unusual festival is April’s Waikiki Spam Jam, where kitschy costumes and roadside grills honor Hawaii’s favorite meat since World War II.